Naked ladies are popular for their eye-catching flowers. Despite their showy appearance these are versatile plants that, with the right care, are equally at home in the garden as they are in your home.
Properly called Amaryllis Belladonna, the name naked lady refers to the plant’s habit of flowering after its foliage has faded. This habit, of flowering unexpectedly, has led to the plant also being known as the surprise lily.
For many growers, when selecting plants, one of the most important questions to consider is when do naked ladies bloom? Knowing when naked ladies bloom helps you to plant an attractive, long lasting floral display.
As well as explaining when naked ladies bloom this guide will also share some key care tips, meaning that you will be able to keep your plants healthy, happy and productive throughout the year.
Learn when naked ladies bloom.
What are Naked Ladies?
Before we learn when naked ladies bloom, it is first important to understand what these plants are. This knowledge enables us to better care for the bulb and encourage it to bloom.
Part of the Amaryllidaceae plant family, naked ladies are native to South Africa. Today, the colorful and fragrant bloom of the Amaryllis is a common sight in homes and gardens throughout the world.
There are two family subgroups in the Amaryllidaceae family:
- Amaryllis belladonna,
- Amaryllis paradisicola.
Largely similar in appearance, both varieties share similar care needs and growing preferences and both produce attractive, fragrant flowers. The two groups can be differentiated by slight changes in the shape and color of their flowers.
Amaryllis belladonna is the original naked lady flower, producing bright showy lily-like flowers. Amaryllis is widely grown and, when you think of a naked lady bloom, is probably the plant that you imagine.
Amaryllis paradisicola is equally attractive, producing ring-like clusters of 10 to 20 flowers. Amaryllis paradisicola is not commonly seen outside its native area.
The bloom sits on a tall stem.
In addition to their showy flowers, Amaryllis belladonna bulbs produce long, strappy green leaves. These fade from the plant before it begins to flower. When in bloom, the flowers sit on tall stems, up to 2 ft in height. Each stem can bear between 2 and 12 flowers. The flowers come in a range of colors including orange, yellow, pink and white.
Warning, amaryllis plants are toxic. Wear gloves when handling the plants and wash your hands afterwards. If you have pets, position the plants out of their reach by planting in raised beds or pots.
When Do Naked Ladies Bloom?
Naked ladies can bloom at different times of the year depending on the variety and growing conditions.
In general the plant’s strappy foliage emerges first in later winter or early spring. If your plants are growing in the ground, the attractive leaves provide useful early season ground cover.
The foliage typically dies back by the start of summer and around 6 weeks later flower stalks shoot up. On the flower stalk floral clusters develop.
The Amaryllis flower is both attractive and fragrant.
While each stalk can hold a number of flowers, the plants typically do not bloom all at the same time. Instead one flower opens as another starts to fade. This provides a long lasting colorful and fragrant
As the last of the flowers fade away the foliage returns. This enables the bulb to harvest and store enough energy to survive the dormant winter months and return the following year.
Caring for Naked Ladies
Knowing how to correctly care for Amaryllis belladonna bulbs enables you to get the best out of these showy plants. With the right care these bulbs will produce lots of attractive, colorful flowers.
Despite their showy appearance, naked ladies are pleasingly easy to care for. The following tips will help you to get the best out of these plants.
Requiring just a little care these are low maintenance plants.
You can plant naked ladies either in the ground, in pots or planters or as houseplants. Outside the plants are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11a. You can also grow Amaryllis plants in USDA Zone 11b but they may not bloom as prolifically.
In cooler climates plants growing outside require some protection from the winter frosts. Bulbs growing in pots can simply be moved inside for the winter.
If you are growing in large or heavy pots a Gartol Rolling Metal Plant Caddy takes the strain away from moving plants around your home and garden. Bulbs growing in the ground can be lifted once all the foliage has died back and stored inside for winter before replanting the following spring.
You can plant Amaryllis belladonna bulbs at any time of year, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Most people will be able to plant the bulbs from October to early May.
Planting in the fall, from September to mid-October, when the ground is still workable, means that you may be able to enjoy flowers the following year. You can also plant in the spring, however bulbs planted in spring may not bloom until the following year.
For the best floral display, place the bulbs in a position that enjoys a lot of light. South facing positions that enjoy light throughout the day are ideal. East facing positions that enjoy lots of morning sun and afternoon shade are also good.
If you are planting in a west facing position, be careful. If the planting location is too open the intense afternoon sun can burn or scorch the leaves. Here dappled light is better.
If you are growing in a pot, again south and east facing windows are ideal spots for these plants.
Amaryllis bulbs need light to grow and flower.
Don’t place the pot directly in a west facing window. Instead, set the pot back a little on a table or unit. This enables the plant to enjoy lots of light and set healthy flowers without the danger of burning the foliage. In darker homes grow lights can be used to supplement natural light levels and boost flowering.
If you are planting in the ground, work in some organic matter or compost before planting. This enriches the soil and improves drainage. Well draining soil is a key ingredient in encouraging naked ladies to bloom.
When you are ready to plant, dig a hole in the soil large enough to hold the bulb. Most bulbs comfortably fit into a hole that is 4 to 5 inches deep. When placed in the hole the tip of the bulb should poke out above soil level. Don’t bury the bulb too deeply; doing so can harm the bulb and prevent it from setting bloom.
Don’t bury the bulb too deeply.
When you are happy with the position of your bulb, firm down the soil around the bulb and water well.
Planting in a pot is exactly the same as in the ground. Just make sure that you use a large enough pot and well draining potting soil.
Some varieties of naked ladies, such as Blood Lilies, grow and flower best when they are rootbound. These varieties do better in pots, where the roots naturally compact a little as they develop.
You will need to repot bulbs growing in pots every 3 to 5 years. Remember, these bulbs dislike being moved and may not flower, or not bloom as profusely, the year after repotting.
When your naked ladies do bloom they look better in groups or clusters. Individual plants, or those spaced too far apart, can look sparse. Planting in groups of at least 3 bulbs can help to create a fuller display.
When planting, space the bulbs a few inches apart. After a few years of healthy growth, Amaryllis bulbs start to produce offsets. These need to be harvested to prevent overcrowding.
Be careful not to damage the bulbs when repotting or transplanting.
During the growing season water the bulbs every other day or a couple of times a week. While these are drought tolerant plants, a regular drink of water encourages your naked ladies to bloom.
Try not to overwater the bulbs. The soil should be moist, not soggy. A soil moisture sensor monitors the moisture content of your soil, helping you to work out when to water your plants. Plants growing in pots may require more frequent watering than those in the ground.
If you are growing in pots, as well as well draining potting soil, ensure that your chosen containers have lots of drainage holes in the bottom. This helps excess water to escape, preventing the soil from becoming waterlogged.
A regular dose of water helps to keep the plant healthy.
For an extra boost apply a balanced fertilizer such as BioAdvanced All-in-one Rose and Flower Care once a month to the soil around the bulbs.
Once the last flower fades, the stalk can be cut down to a few inches above the bulb. Use sharp garden scissors to cleanly cut the stalk from the bulb. Try not to cut too close to the bulb to prevent accidental damage.
Allow the foliage to remain in place until later in the fall; it is doing a vital job of harvesting energy for the bulb to store. If the bulb doesn’t store enough energy now it will struggle to survive the winter and re-bloom the following year. As soon as the foliage starts to wither it can be cut down to around an inch above ground level.
Once the flowers and foliage have faded away in the fall, cease watering. At this stage the bulb is dormant and not taking on more moisture. Too much water now can rot the bulb. Resume watering in the spring when new growth emerges.
A low maintenance plant, many pests avoid Amaryllis belladonna plants because of their toxicity. Gophers and deer also avoid the plants.
Because the foliage of naked ladies tends to die away, the plants can leave flower beds looking sparse. Interplanting with other bulbs that bloom at different times of the year, such as spring flowering daffodils and tulips can provide a long lasting floral display.
Herbs such as rosemary and lavender that share similar growing requirements to the Amaryllis bulb are also good companions. Grouping plants that have similar requirements together also makes general maintenance easier.
Finally, low growing ground cover plants can also be used to fill bare soil in your flower beds.
These are low maintenance, versatile flowering bulbs.
Naked ladies are attractive additions to the garden, when they bloom the plants provide eye-catching color and fragrance. A reliable cut flower naked ladies also work well in mixed flower beds, rock gardens, gravel gardens, container gardens, in pots on patios or as houseplants.
Knowing when naked ladies bloom enables you to better care for these attractive plants. It also enables you to create a long lasting mixed floral display that provides your garden with color, fragrance and interest from early spring until late winter.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.